ACK Media, the
company which recently acquired the Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle brands, plans to use multiple forms of digital media to reach out to today's young audiences.
Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, which have been published by India Book House (IBH) since 1967 and 1980, respectively, were among the first examples of children's publishing in India with their moral and mythological themes. Characters such as Shikari Shambhu, Suppandi and Tantri the Mantri have remained timeless favourites with Indian children. Their acquisition by ACK Media will assist these brands in exploring new media platforms such as the Internet and mobile to expand their revenue streams and reach a larger audience, especially NRIs.
ACK Media itself is made up of an intriguing group of people - from a former McKinsey employee to a Harvard Business School professor - who have got together to build a bridge between emerging digital media and the world of fantasy that Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha have built over the decades.
Speaking to agencyfaqs!, Samir Patil, cofounder and chief executive officer of ACK Media, says, "Digital media will be the primary growth driver. We will be using the platforms to appeal to more age groups." ACK Media is initially working on three websites, the ACK Online Store, Tinkle Online and Amar Chitra Katha Online. There are also plans to explore mobile media for the content.
"We want Tinkle Online to be a safe location for pre-teens (8-12 years). It will have a mix of content and activities relevant to Indian kids," says Patil. He is clear that the company did not want to make the site "just another copy of social networking sites".
Apart from the homegrown audience, the site also caters to NRIs. "We are already seeing that kids are using the site to connect with their cousins abroad," says Patil.
The site interface has been designed by interactive agency BC Web Wise, while the site conceptualisation and technology was done in-house by ACK Media.
The company is also developing a site for Amar Chitra Katha, which will appeal to older age groups and even grownups, says Patil. "We will re-create the world of Amar Chitra Katha on the Net," he says.
Apart from the online initiatives, the company will also experiment with mobile media, including mobile phones and iPods. "As the screen size of the iPod is larger, we can use it effectively for teaser campaigns in the form of animation and short episodes," says Patil.
The company will also develop mobile episodes or mobisodes. "The mobile is an important platform for us. Since we have differentiated and original content, we will look at better revenue sharing deals with operators," he says. No tieups with telecom operators have been announced yet, but will follow soon.
ACK Media will also be working with production houses to develop "live action" programming for TV as opposed to animation, which is more expensive, says Patil.
To promote the new sites, the company will rely on its own publications, which have 2.6 million prints annually, and a readership five times that, claims Patil. The company has 450 titles in Amar Chitra Katha and 250 in Tinkle. The sites will be promoted through display advertising on the Internet, along with search marketing.
ACK Media is headed by Patil, a former associate partner at McKinsey & Co. in New York, who has worked with many publishing firms. The company's vice-president of sales and marketing, Varun Sud, is also an ex-McKinsey employee, based in India. Anant Pai, the man who founded Amar Chitra Katha, remains with the company as editor emeritus and chief story teller. On the board of advisors is Mukti Kaire, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, and Tina Trikha, who was a director at the US based edutainment company, Scholastic.